Gaddafi v Telegraph Group Ltd

Reference: [1998] EWCA Civ 1626; [2000] EMLR 431

Court: Court of Appeal

Judge: Stuart-Smith, Hirst & Tuckey LJJ

Date of judgment: 28 Oct 1999

Summary: Defamation - libel - newspaper publication - qualified privilege - Reynolds - journalist's sources - whether non-disclosure of sources precludes reliance on privilege

Appearances: Godwin Busuttil (Defendant) 

Instructing Solicitors: Eversheds for the Claimant; Farrer & Co for the Defendant


The claimant, the son of Colonel Gaddafi, brought a libel claim against the defendant over the publication of an article in the Sunday Telegraph in 1995. The defendant pleaded defences of qualified privilege, justification and fair comment. Qualified privilege was struck out. Before the appeal came on for hearing, Reynolds v Times Newspapers Ltd was decided in the Court of Appeal. The defendant put forward an amended plea of qualified privilege, influenced by the ruling in Reynolds. The claimant objected to this new formulation on the grounds that it did not specify the sources of the material relied on.


Whether leave to amend to rely on Reynolds qualified privilege should be conditional on the defendant providing further information about its sources.


Leave granted. To impose the conditions sought by the claimant upon the grant of leave to amend would infringe the defendant’s right to protect its sources.


Media defendants are not precluded from reliance on Reynolds qualified privilege in circumstances in which they wish to withhold identification of their sources.